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Hair Today. . .

By Kenneth A. Katz

I HAVE a problem.

I have acknowledged it. I have to do something about it. And I need help.

These are the hard parts, problem-solving experts say. You can't solve a problem until you recognize it, define it and resolve to battle it.

That's not always the easiest thing for a Harvard student to do. Sometimes a 19-year legacy of nearly unblemished success makes the admission of imperfection or failure just a tad difficult. It's hard to watch your luck run out.

Denial is often a much easier route to take. Pretend that the problem does not exist, that it will go away by itself, that you can handle it.

I tried to do that, but it can't go on any more. I have to face the fact that I have a problem and there's nothing I alone can do about it.

My name is Ken. I am 19 years old, and I am going bald.

"YOUR problem is right here," said my barber last week, frowning and pointing his fingers right into the bare skin high, high, on my temples--bare skin where hair once cavorted in wild curls of carefree youth. "You're going bald, and its starting right here."

It was then that I realized that an era of my life had ended. This comment wasn't something silly, like a friend's offer to apply suntan lotion to my scalp at the beach. This was my trusted hair care professional honestly telling me that I have a real hair-related problem. My barber had said the b-word, and it changed me forever.

Since then, my life has become an exercise in damage control. I am afraid to brush my hair, to shower, to do anything that may disturb the few remaining wisps that are my only reminder of a hair-filled childhood long, long ago.

I have spent hours on a frantic search for ways to restore the brown locks that once danced ever so gracefully on my scalp--or at least to make the premature departure of my hair less noticeable. Sometimes, when I'm lying in bed late at night, I even consider calling the toll-free number for Hair Club for Men.

I have delved far beyond the normal range of remedies--toupees and hair weaves--to investigate more obscure disciplines of knowledge for their insights into potential cures for angstridden premature balders.

Here is the cutting edge of anti-baldness wisdom:

Chemistry. Be a Minoxidil man. Rub chemicals into your scalp and pray for growth. Put your right foot in, take your right foot out, do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself about. Open your mind to science and your wallet, too--at $52 for a month's worth at CVS, Minoxidil may let you keep your hair and nothing else.

Religion. Be Jewish. I already am, so this is easy for me. Just wear a yarmulke and you're free to hide whatever coverage problems might come your way. They have all different colors and sizes, depending on your needs. Plus you score bonus points with the Big One in the Sky.

Alternative Religion. Join the Hare Krishna movement. To fit in, you need only a pink rayon robe and a long shock of hair on the back of your head, which is not a problem with my baldness pattern. They shave the rest of your head and everyone's happy. A bonus is the swell performance opportunities in front of the Coop on Saturday nights (I want the tambourine) and the "delicious 10-course vegetarian feasts" advertised on the little leaflets they hand out.

Politics. Get involved in the environmental movement. Wear a bandana, get a hackey-sack, hug a tree and you're home free. Relive the glory days of FOP. As long as you're close to nature, nobody will ever question whether that doo rag hides hairy temples or not.

Science. I'm not referring to medical miracles; I'm talking social isolation. Become a pre-med or a science concentrator and you can spend your four years at Harvard living peacefully at Cabot Library and the rest of your life in a dungeon lab. You'll be among others whose hairlines have been pushed way back by the stress of taking organic chemistry. You'll find that nobody will notice whether you have hair or not. You'll find that nobody will care.

GRANTED, I'm talking about bigtime lifestyle changes for the sake of a few strands of hair. But as far as I'm concerned, this baldness thing is a matter of principle. A matter of youth.

This much is clear: the battle for my scalp has begun. It won't be quick, easy or painless. But in the end I will win. Thick, wavy curls of brown hair will once again cascade over my youthful scalp.

Say, what was that toll-free number again?

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